A crime story published in a little-known website in the US state of Pennsylvania has stirred a campaign to have a suspected sex pest and his wife extradited to face justice in Kenya.
According to Lancaster Online, an American couple proclaiming themselves as missionaries packed their belongings in 2008 and travelled to Kenya to establish a children’s home.
Gregory Dow and his wife Mary Rose, who had sold their farm in East Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania, pitched their wagons on a 1.2-acre piece of land in Boito, Bomet County, where they started the Dow Family Children’s Home.
On its website and fundraising promotional materials, the children’s home is described as refuge for orphaned and abandoned children. By 2015, more than 79 children called the place home.
But in 2017, Mr Dow fled Kenya never to come back after an arrest warrant was issued against him over claims he was sexually assaulting children under his care.
According to the Lancaster Online, before his travel to Kenya, Mr Dow had been convicted for sex-related crimes in the US and had actually served time.
“It’s this history that makes me very sceptical about claims that the charges in Kenya were trumped-up and that the Dows are innocent. It’s a story that has bothered me and if there’s any way to uncover the truth, then please share with me what you find,” Ms Lindsey Blest, the author of the story, said when the Sunday Nation spoke to her on the phone.
After Mr Dow left the country, his wife tried to flee in September 2017 but was arrested by the police. She was charged with cruelty to children by, among other things, having girls implanted with birth control devices.
According to police records, she was released on bond on September 16, 2017. She later fled the country leaving the orphanage behind. However, back at their Lancaster home, the couple maintains their innocence and instead blame their neighbours at their Boito home for “turning against them”.
The orphanage they built is now deserted with the children already moved to other homes. The website they had started to help them in sharing information about the orphanage cannot be traced online.
Mr Dow has since gone into hiding. The Sunday Nation camped outside a house believed to be their home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but there was no indication that somebody lived there. But the Lancaster Online reporter who spoke to the Sunday Nation said Mr Dow had told her in a phone interview that the man who sold them the 1.2-acre piece of land came up with a scheme to get the property back.
“They got a few ‘rebellious’ teenage girls to lie,” he said. “It’s sad to say we live in a society where people are guilty until proven innocent.”
But Kenyans in the US don’t seem to have bought this line. Ms Lilly Richards, the founder of Kenya Women in the US, an online social group, went on Facebook asking for the Dows to be extradited. “Share the link and spread the word. Let's get justice for these children.”
Many Kenyans living in the US expressed outrage that Mr Dow had escaped minutes before his arrest. His children apparently also managed to get out of the country. Even though his wife was later arrested, she eventually escaped.
Kenyan-born Anthony Kamau of Wilmington, Delaware, said there was a need to pursue justice for the alleged victims.
Janice Jenkins, an American citizen who knew the Dows and their previous case in Iowa, takes issue with the church that encouraged them to go to Kenya to work with children despite a questionable past.
“They fundraised for them to go to Africa knowing well that Dow was a registered sex offender. This is like putting a child in a candy store. I spoke with Doug Lamb before Greg and Mary Rose went to Kenya. Doug dismissed me as if I was trying to cause trouble,” she said. “Why would he as a pastor encourage them to go, gather support for them, support them financially?”
Ms Jenkins said she is willing to assist the Kenyan authorities in the investigation. “I want the children in Kenya to know we believe them; we are praying for them. We will stand with them for justice!” she added.
The office of the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions in Nairobi did not immediately respond to our enquiries on the case.